Do you often find yourself questioning whether or not you are making the right decisions in how you parent your children? Parents today, especially Christian parents, are challenged with how to effectively and yet biblically train their children. This can be a daunting task for many parents who end up spending much of their time second guessing themselves.

For example, I recently read an article about a teenage girl in Massachusetts who decided that she would like to give up her social media website for a few months. She approached her parents and asked that they provide her with a monetary reward upon the completion of her commitment. Her parents drew up a contract and changed the password to insure that she stayed true to her promise. Was agreeing to a monetary incentive the proper approach for her parents to take?

Secular viewpoints and those of many therapists would applaud the teenager for coming up with a solution on her own. The teenager saw an issue that she felt needed resolving and set a plan in motion to solve it.

Those same individuals would most likely also congratulate the parents for negotiating with their teenager in undertaking an issue that they may have also found problematic. Too much time on the Internet involved with social media or otherwise can result in a reduction in academic achievement, less time spent in sports, and less time spent with family. Many therapists would agree that offering a reward assists in changing an inappropriate behavior, in this case too much time focused on social media, to an appropriate behavior, terminating this involvement so that the child may be benefitted overall.

A dilemma is created for a parent who wants a positive change in behavior but also wants their child to take initiative on their own to change their inappropriate behavior without a promise of financial gain.

What lesson does the approach of offering monetary incentives teach a child and should it be utilized? Some would say that it teaches a child only to do something if they receive something, in this case money, in return. The focus is not on undertaking a task or changing a behavior merely because it is the right or appropriate thing to do.

So how is a parent to know what to do? How does the Bible guide us in this area?

Doing something just because it is the right thing to do is similar to the concept of serving others without an expectation that you will gain from it financially. As Christians, we are to serve God and to serve others as Jesus Himself did. The Bible teaches that even Christ came to this earth, not to be served, but to serve (1 Samuel 12:24 and Mark 10:45. With service comes a willingness to put “self” aside with the knowledge that in serving others you will receive His blessings (Colossians 3:24). There is not an “expectation” that you will receive anything specific or that you will be allowed to choose the reward for doing something beneficial for others.

The parents could have taught their teenage daughter in the article that stopping social media isn’t something that should be done for monetary compensation. Rather it is something that should be done voluntarily just because it is the right or appropriate thing to do. The benefit to the teen would be her ability to focus more on important areas in her life when social media is put aside.

Perhaps her parents could have also taught her that service to others is a reward in and of itself. They could have offered to allow her to serve her community should she keep her commitment to terminate social media. In biblical terms, blessings from God result from service to others. Aren’t blessings far greater riches than mere currency? This concept would be considered farfetched in most secular households. But is it really such a farfetched concept to instill in our children the significance of doing what Christ himself found valuable and to see it as a reward?

Finally, are parents too ready to “bargain” away their parental influence and allow their child to set the parameters as this teenager did by informing her parents that she would accept a monetary reward? Many parents would agree that children should be taught that parents are the decision-making authority in a traditional Christian parent-child relationship (Ephesians 6:2). Parents are thus the ones who guide their children and determine what is best for them. It stands to reason, using biblical principles, that it is the parent not the child who decides the issue concerning a reward.

There are many theoretical approaches to how someone should effectively parent. Those approaches change from time to time and can create a parenting dilemma for many parents confused about which approach is best. Parenting dilemmas can be reduced for many parents if biblical principles are followed instead of the most current parenting trend of the day. Biblical principles are unchanging and a perfect step-by-step guide for parenting success.

Susan J. Calloway Knowles is a Licensed Christian Marriage & Family Therapist and former practicing Family Law Attorney. She is also a Christian music Songwriter. Susan’s songs can be found at www.worshipsong.com. Her website is www.susanknowles.com.

Publication date: February 26, 2013